5 Tips For Starting Your Infant On Solid Foods

By Rachel Rothman, MS, RD, CLEC

At your baby’s four-month visit, your pediatrician may have talked to you about starting your baby on solid foods and probably recommended to start between 4-6 months. It’s usually recommended that baby can be started on solids when they are sitting up mainly on their own, seem interested in food and open mouth when food is offered. As a pediatric dietitian, I answer many questions about infant nutrition and starting baby on solid foods. Here are just a few of the things to keep in mind when your baby is ready for real food:

  1. At the beginning, it’s just for fun.Your baby will still be getting most of his nutrients from breast milk or formula, so your goal should be to help him learn these new behaviors. Eating should be a fun experience, and not stressful. If you begin feeding solid food and your baby has a hard time with it – she’s gagging or fussy – wait and try again. You will not do any damage by waiting a bit.
  2. Consider some key nutrients and focus on variety. Key nutrients for babies and toddlers include vitamins A, C, and D, iron, total fat and omega-3 fats, and calcium. Each of these nutrients serves a specific purpose within the body; around 6 months of age, babies require these in other forms, above what is in breast milk or formula. Don’t be afraid to be creative with the foods you are offering to meet baby’s needs for these nutrients. Infant rice cereal may be what your grandmother recommends, and it’s no slouch – its high iron content is helpful. However, variety is important for teaching your little one to appreciate different food tastes and textures, so try purees of spinach, beans or lentils.  To help baby intake additional omega 3 fatty acids, try adding chia seeds, ground flax or ground walnuts to purees.
  3. Some foods should be avoided at the beginning.A few foods you will want to avoid until baby is 12 months include honey (because of the risk of botulism), cow’s milk (it contains too much protein and some other nutrients), and small solids (small chunks of raw vegetables, grapes, sausages, whole nuts and seeds can all be choking hazards). Allergens are another consideration. Recommendations about the foods to avoid (in order to minimize risk from allergic reactions) have changed over the years. A 2008 review of research by the AAP concluded that the top 8 allergenic foods (cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat) need not be avoided unless you have a family history of food allergies. In that case, it is best to speak with your pediatrician before proceeding.
  4. Serving sizes are small. I hear a lot from parents that their baby is not eating enough. But how much is enough? A typical serving size when starting solids is 1-2 tablespoons of a puree or food, or a few bites of a soft piece of food – it’s a small amount.  And you will want to start by offering one to two meals per day. Remember, baby will still be getting a good portion of her nutrition from milk or formula until age one. As baby gets older the serving size will increase, after 12 months the amount of food per meal should be around ¾ to 1 cup.
  5. Division of Responsibility. Renowned feeding expert Ellyn Satter gives parents the helpful suggestion of division of responsibility. Parents are responsible for the “what, when,and where of feeding; children are responsible for the how much and whether of ”  Do not force your child to eat more or stop eating if you feel they have had too much. Babies have the amazing ability to self-regulate (many of us adults have long since lost this ability). Eating is a behavior that does need to be learned but does not need to be rewarded.

When feeding baby don’t forget about mom and dad. All too often I see mom and dad focused so much on baby’s health and wellness that the parent’s health and wellness falls by the way side. Remember to practice good nutrition for yourself, this will not only help you to feel better, but to set a good example for your child. Healthy and happy mom and dad lead toward a healthy and happy baby!

Want to learn more about starting baby on solids? Join me at Babies in Bloom on February 14th at 11:30am.  Registration and details are here.

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Taking Care of Tiny Teeth

Christmas may only feel like last week, but somehow we find ourselves hurtling towards February 2017.

February brings a lot to smile about however. Quite literally – it is National Children’s Dental Health Month, a month where thousands of dental professionals join together to educate and support both parents and teachers on oral health and hygiene.

The older children get, the more sugary temptations they face, and while there is nothing wrong with an occasional treat, this year’s campaign asks parents to be mindful of the impact regular fruit juices and sodas can have on little teeth. The 2017 slogan is: “Choose Tap Water for a Sparkling Smile” – you can find lots of fun activities, coloring sheets and 2017 campaign posters for home or school here.

But enough of the bigger littles. Let’s talk about the little littles and how / when to start taking care of their tiny choppers.

While baby teeth aren’t forever teeth, their health, and the health of tiny gums, can impact future permanent teeth as they are important space holders for the ‘big’ teeth that are growing under the gums. A good set of teeth will also help an infant chew, speak and smile, so…..

START EARLY.

You can introduce oral hygiene practises even before the teeth come in. The American Dental Association suggests starting from as early as two days old. You can gently wipe the gums after feeding with a clean, moist gauze or washcloth.

When a tooth, or teeth, do eventually pop through (ouch!), start taking good care of them ASAP. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry says that: “Parents should use a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste to brush baby teeth twice daily as soon as they erupt and a soft, age-appropriate sized toothbrush. Once children are 3 to 6 years old, then the amount should be increased to a pea-size dollop and perform or assist your child’s toothbrushing. Remember that young children do not have the ability to brush their teeth effectively.”

ASK YOUR DENTIST ABOUT FLOURIDE.

The right amount of fluoride can strengthen tooth enamel as teeth are forming. Let your dentist evaluate the fluoride level of your drinking water – he may suggest fluoride supplements. Both the ADA and the AAPD recommends that Baby get his first dental exam at age 1, or when his first tooth appears.

 

MAKE IT FUN.

Not all children will enjoy having their teeth cleaned. Some will despise it –especially if their gums are already sore from teething. Just be patient and be gentle! If old enough, try distracting them with a silly song, or just let them play with the brush to satisfy their curiosity. As they become more familiar with the tool, you might even find them sticking it in their mouths, all by themselves.

Like most things, if you start and support early enough, you will instil good dental habits for years to come!

We always stock a range of teething and dental hygiene products in our Boutique, so please, feel free to pop in for a visit and take a look around. Teething can be hard for both baby and parents – trust us, we’ve been there! We’re here to listen and help where we can.

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Why Do Moms Hold Babies On The Left More Often?

Particularly in the early weeks of an infant’s life, it is said that mothers tend to cradle babies more on the left.

Many have long assumed that handedness determines how you hold your baby. So, right handed mothers will tend to hold their baby on the left to ensure their leading hand is free….and as there are more right-handers in the world than left, you naturally tend to find more babies on the left.

That kind of practicality makes sense right? Except, I’m a leftie and have always held my littles on the left hand side too!

Fascinating new research suggests that baby positioning is actually down to how our brains are wired.

It’s all to do with the two completely different sides of our brain you see.  The right hand side of a mammal’s brain is responsible for processing social cues, relationship building and also receives signals from the left eye. Some researchers therefore think that moms will keep their littles on the left so they can better monitor, and connect, with that all important left eye.

As a child grows stronger, less vulnerable and more independent, this left positioning by mom can change says scientists.

However, it’s not just mom that has a preferred side – little mammals on the move prefer to keep their mom on one side also. The left.  A team from the University of Tasmania, Australia, studied 11 wild animals – including horses, sheep, walruses and even whales – and recorded nearly 11,000 position choices for 175 mom-infant pairs.

Around 75% of the time, the littles wanted mom on the left! Because keeping mom on their left meant they are better able to keep track of her, not get left behind and therefore increases their chance of survival.

However, a threat reverses roles says the lead researcher, Janeane Ingram: “Infants keep their mother on their left in normal situations such as moving forward or suckling,” she says. “But when faced with stressful situations such as when fleeing, mothers prefer their infant on their left side so they can better monitor them,” Left is mama’s protective mode.

They say this research could have great implications in studying development disorders associated with reduced eye contact between mother and infant, such as autism spectrum disorder.

The human body never ceases to amaze us. We are one heck of a design plan the way our bodies work aren’t we? Remarkable. Go, Mother Nature!

The full story on the research can be found here.

 

 

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